Enhancing School Safety Measures In NC Public Schools
BACKGROUND: With increasing incidents of school violence occurring around the nation, the North Carolina Association of School Administrators and our school leader members are committed to working with state and local policymakers to ensure that all schools in North Carolina are a safe learning environment for students and a conducive setting for personnel and visitors. Since 2013, there have been more than 300 school shootings in the United States, which is roughly one every week. Furthermore, 1 in 5 children have a mental health or substance use disorder, with 75 percent of those going untreated and thereby enhancing the potential escalation into violence at school or elsewhere. Since the Parkland, Florida school shooting in February, North Carolina has seen a dramatic uptick in school-related threats of either a bomb on campus or a planned mass shooting, as well as an increase in incidents of students bringing weapons to school. The State Bureau of Investigation in a recent presentation to lawmakers highlighted eight incidents of potential threats on a school campus in various communities between Feb. 28 and March 20, as well as sharing the threat summary for the 2016-2017 school year, in which there were 2,745 incidents of weapons possession, 105 incidents of a firearm or powerful explosive and 89 bomb threats on public school campuses statewide.
These and other potential threats require a concerted effort by state and local law enforcement and school personnel to ensure that all are investigated in a timely and appropriate manner that heads off any real danger to anyone on the campus where the threat is made. While much of the recent discussion on school safety has included the question of whether arming teachers in the classroom is something North Carolina should consider, NCASA and the vast majority of superintendents and principals across the state oppose this proposal and instead recommend that all weapons on campus be handled only by law enforcement and security personnel trained specifically in handling them appropriately. Numerous statewide polls on this same topic have found that a majority of NC teachers share this opinion and feel there is no place in individual classrooms for loaded weapons.
RECOMMENDATIONS: There are a number of steps that can be taken at the state level to assist local school districts and law enforcement in ensuring safety is maintained on K-12 campuses statewide. To enhance school safety across North Carolina, NCASA asks the 2018 General Assembly to consider the following actions:
- Support funding for additional School Resource Officers (SROs), School Counselors, Psychologists, and Nurses.
- Support funding for capital improvements, such as fences, locks, bulletproof glass, metal detectors, panic alarms, etc.
- Support expanding avenues for anonymous reporting of potential threats, through reporting vehicles like anonymous tip lines, the SPEAK UP NC app, etc.
- Support the potential expansion of pre-existing school safety resources, which include SRO and panic alarm matching grants, conducting annual school safety exercises, and utilization of the anonymous tip line and volunteer SRO programs.
- Support making it a felony to threaten mass violence on educational property, as proposed in House Bill 670.
Ensuring safety on public school campuses is a top priority for superintendents, principals and other administrators in NCASA’s membership, and our organization stands ready to assist lawmakers with determining the best and most feasible steps that can be taken to protect students, personnel and visitors to our K-12 schools across the state. We appreciate the increased attention to, and opportunity for collaboration on, this important issue.